It’s great to be read when you write and to be heard when you speak, even when the feedback isn’t quite what you expected, like the comments following the recent story “No Way Out For Couples” written by Simon Jones.
However, such feedback does provide the opportunity to respond to some of the myths raised by the article.
Myth: The number of divorces filed and granted has plummeted in recent years.
Like all statistics, numbers can be deceiving. Reviewing the number of divorces granted in the period from 1984 to 2012, one can see that the number of divorces granted increased and then decreased mirroring the rise and fall of the expatriot population. It would be reasonable to conclude that, although in recent years there has been some decline in the number of divorces, the decline coincides with and reflects the exodus of foreign guest workers who, when they lived in Bermuda, were accessing the local courts for resolution of their marital breakdown. It is interesting to note that the number of divorces filed in 2013 is already on track to increase back to at least the 180 mark.
Myth: There is no way out for couples who cannot afford it.
The recent article, “No Way Out For Couples”, written by Simon Jones had an eye catching headline but in no way reflects reality, my views or the views of Marshall Diel & Myers Limited. Experience shows that people suffering from marital breakdown do not remain in a relationship which is unhappy, often volatile and in some cases violent. There have always been ways out for couples experiencing marital breakdown and the options are more varied now than they were 20 years ago.
Couples now have far more available to them by way of alternative dispute resolution, including mediation, round table negotiations, collaboration and counseling. It is the exceptional cases which end up in disputed and costly court proceedings.
This is where an experienced lawyer can assist. Tough decisions may have to be taken and reasonable compromises made by all parties, but finding a solution is never impossible.
Myth: The decline in the number of divorces filed has reduced the income stream of attorneys.
It is clear from the graph that the number of divorces granted has hovered around the 200 per year level. Whether you love them or hate them, family law attorneys are necessary when you need to extricate yourself from a failed marriage. In today’s economic landscape family law practitioners are being innovative and are thinking outside the box in an effort to meet their clients’ needs whilst making every effort to preserve the matrimonial assets for the benefit of the family. The service they provide is necessary and invaluable but it comes at a cost. That cost can be greatly reduced if parties ensure that they have made full disclosure and if they are prepared to negotiate fairly to reach a resolution. Family lawyers have a duty to ensure that clients have an opportunity to seek and obtain counseling in cases where the marriage is retrievable and they discharge their duty, as they are required to confirm in writing that they have done so. It is only when there is no hope of reconciliation that divorce or separation is pursued.
For the avoidance of doubt the article that appeared in The Sun on October 18, 2013 with the headline “No Way Out For Couples” was written by Simon Jones. The article that you have just read has been written by Rachael Barritt, director, Matrimonial and Family Team.
Rachael Barritt is a director of Marshall Diel & Myers Limited and Member of the Matrimonial and Family Team at Marshall Diel & Myers Limited. A copy of this article can be found at the firm’s website at www.law.bm. This column is for general guidance only and does not constitute legal advice.